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The State of the Big Six: Npower

The privatisation of the electricity market led to the National Power first trading in 1990. After several names and ownership changes, Npower was acquired by German-owned RWE and continued to make significant strides in the industry. It is one of the Big Six suppliers majorly owned by another large energy firm E.ON, although operations remain separate as of writing.

Here is a guide to Npower and its current plight in the market, mainly after it has encountered rough patches in the past couple of years.

Npower: An Overview

After the failed merger with SSE in December 2018, Npower struggled to navigate the retail energy market, causing bleeding losses to operations and job cuts to its workforce. From its large 16% electricity market share in 2007, Npower’s figures dwindled to only 8% in Q2 2019 for electricity and 6% for the gas side.
The massive exodus of Npower customers left the company, with around 2.3 million accounts to date.

The energy firm is 30th out of 35 energy firms in the satisfaction survey by Which? for 2019. It garnered an overall satisfaction score of 57%, a few points below other Big Six rivals. It’s a marked improvement for a supplier that has been in the bottom a few times, but it still hasn’t performed quite as well compared to its earlier years.

Npower takes its supply mostly from natural gas sources (60.3%). Its fuel mix also consists of nuclear (18.1%), renewables (8.9%), coal (8.9%), and other fuels (3.8%).

Which? takes a positive note on the company’s procedures and practices, saying they do better than many other suppliers. The live chat function of Npower takes only 2 minutes and 29 seconds to respond, which is remarkedly better than others. It also fared better in terms of phone call response, taking 7 minutes and 21 seconds on average versus the record slowest waiting time of 21 minutes for Scottish Power.

However, Npower takes poor two-star ratings for its overall customer service and value for money. Customers believe that there are cheaper deals out there, with one client highly doubting its competitiveness.

Energy regulator Ofgem fined the company in December 2015 for failing to treat customers fairly regarding customer service procedures and billing. It paid a £26 million settlement, dividing between the redress fund and affected customers. The regulator also forced Npower to update its service practices in 2017 after informing 22,000 customers wrongly about exit fees if they made a transfer during the switching window.

Key points to Consider for Home Users

Npower has a live chat option on its website for home users wanting to contact a customer representative. The company strongly suggests creating an online account for its customers to get faster assistance and access to their accounts. Otherwise, they can call 0800 073 3000 or 0330 100 3000.

Bills can be paid in different payment channels. The easiest way to pay is through Direct Debit, wherein the bill amount is docked automatically to a customer’s bank account. Other options include cash or cheque payment to a bank or Post Office or through the firm’s online payment channel.

Customers are free to switch tariffs or suppliers even when they are using a smart meter. For those moving houses, Npower asks to inform them ahead of time through the customer’s online account to make the transition smooth and simple.

Key Points to Consider for Business Users

Business users are encouraged to activate their online account from Npower’s business page to make transactions quick and easy, such as sending meter readings and manage multiple accounts. They can also call 0330 100 8100 for matters concerning business accounts.

Payments channels for home users are also applicable to business customers. They also have the option to pay through BACS or by Giroslip, which will incur a surcharge applicable to non-Direct Debit payments.

Full information for out of contract rates such as deemed or default rates can be accessed through downloadable files on their business website at https://www.npower.com/business/energy-contracts/deemed-rates/.